Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Riya, vaporware, and hard problems

Liz Gannes at GigaOm reports that Riya, a company that promised to revolutionize photo search, has "dramatically changed course". It is now going to be a visual search engine for products.

Apparently, their facial recognition technology never worked very well, so they are shifting to a problem where "the threshold of success is lower."

Riya got a lot of hype about their vaporware facial recognition technology about a year ago. For example, at the time, Michael Arrington said:
Riya leverages potent facial and text recognition technology with an intelligent interface to help people make sense of the thousands of untitled and untagged photos that are building up on their hard drives.

Riya is going to be successful. They have real technology.
It turns out, all Riya had was strong claims about solving hard problems they could not actually solve.

Of course, it is not surprising that Riya couldn't solve the facial recognition problem. It's a very hard problem. What is surprising is that they got such attention for vaporware claims about solving this very hard problem.

I wonder if we are seeing the same thing with the flood of hype and claims about solving natural language search. Powerset, for one example of many, seems to be getting amazing hype for a company with no launched product in a space littered with previous failures.

See also Don Dodge's post, "Riya tries again as Like.com".

See also Danny Sullivan's older post, "Hello Natural Language Search, My Old Over-Hyped Search Friend".

6 comments:

Ian Davis said...

What do you make of Hakia which seems to be throwing lots of cash at the Web 2.0 conference this year. I wonder if they'll be around in 1 year's time?

Greg Linden said...

Hakia is another great example. Hard to judge until they release a product. At the moment, it remains well-hyped vaporware.

Anonymous said...

As someone who works at a facial recognition
company that has been around far longer than
Riya, I was always surprised at the hype that Riya got from the Silicon valley blog
crowd. It seemed odd to me when I heard they
basically hired a few PhDs from Stanford to
create their face recognition tech from scratch. I wonder when they'll run out of money.

Saravanan said...

I am tired of hype generated by Web 2.0 companies. Products should speak for themselves, not the companies that develop them. Products like Google Maps, Flickr, delicious, Bloglines got popular by the superiority of their features and interface, not by hyping. Riya was hyped so much even a cynical person like me, believed that they have got really good technology for facial recognition. A year later shows that Riya does not live up to the hype it had generated. Apart from the companies news hungry bloggers also a reason for these hype up. A [Google/Yahoo/Microsoft] Killer is identified by the market, not by the companies themselves.

Otis Gospodnetic said...

The power of SF/Silicon Valley networking, that is all, folks.

Balakumar said...

Too much hype never helps: http://balak.blogspot.com/2005/12/riya-alpha-release-so-alpha-it-hurts.html